If you try to book an economy flight with Virgin Atlantic, you will see that there are three levels of pricing, each with different benefits.
At the bottom end you have no checked baggage and will be allocated a seat at check-in, with no guarantee that couples will be sat together. At the top end, you have the Economy Delight package with premium benefits including more legroom.
What I’m going to show in this article is that the additional Virgin Points you earn from Economy Delight are – on their own – pretty much worth the additional cost. This makes it a no-brainer to book these tickets and effectively get all of the other benefits for free.
What are Virgin Atlantic’s economy seat options?
Your options are:
Economy Light: 31″ legroom, Hand Baggage Only fare with seats assigned at check-in, cannot be upgraded to Upper Class or Premium Economy with Virgin Points
Economy Classic: 31″ legroom, equivalent to the old Economy fare with the ability to pre-select seats and with checked luggage included, can be upgraded to Upper Class or Premium Economy with Virgin Points
Economy Delight: Extra legroom (34″ pitch), free seat selection at any time, priority check-in and priority boarding, can be upgraded to Upper Class or Premium Economy with Virgin Points
Full details are on the Virgin Atlantic website here.
Here is a slightly OTT picture of an Economy Delight seat:
But there’s more …..
Virgin Atlantic gives you different levels of Virgin Points for each ticket class.
This makes a HUGE difference to the value proposition, especially for Economy Delight.
- Economy Light: earns 25% of miles flown plus 25 tier points each-way
- Economy Classic: earns 50% of miles flown plus 25 tier points each-way (the Virgin website says ‘50% to 150% of miles flown’ and ’25 to 50′ tier points each way but the cheaper non-flexible tickets will only offer 50% miles bonus and 25 tier points)
- Economy Delight: earns 150% of miles flown plus 50 tier points each-way
These numbers show during the booking process when you select an Economy seat and are asked to pick between Light, Classic and Delight. Here’s an example for a return flight to New York:
As you can, the mileage gap is substantial – and this is only for the short hop to New York. We look at the numbers for San Francisco below.
This page of the Virgin Atlantic website explains their tier point system. You need 400 tier points in a rolling 12-month period for Silver and 1,000 tier points for Gold.
How does pricing move around between ticket types?
There is no fixed answer. It varies by route and over time.
However, as a rough rule of thumb, Economy Classic costs £100 on top of Economy Light, and Economy Delight costs another £100 on top of Economy Classic. This is for a return trip.
Should you pick Economy Light or Classic?
I’m not going to spend much time looking at the price difference between Economy Light and Economy Classic.
The price gap, as I said above, tends to be £100 return.
As it will cost you £100 return to check in a suitcase, only a total idiot would book Economy Light if they had luggage. You are not saving anything (the flight costs £100 more but you will pay £100 at check-in for your suitcase) and you are missing out on free selection and a big pile of additional Virgin Points.
Virgin’s pricing for additional baggage over your allowance can be found here.
If you’re not taking a suitcase, the key thing to know is that seat selection before check-in costs £40 each way (£80 return) on an Economy Light ticket although you will get a ‘preferred’ seat for this.
What does seating cost?
Virgin Atlantic restructured its seat pricing policy last year. This is how it now works:
- Economy Light tickets get a seat allocated at check-in, but passengers may also book a ‘preferred’ seat for cash in advance if they wish. This will cost £40 each way.
- Economy Classic tickets can still select a seat for free at the time of booking, but passengers will need to pay £30 each way if they want to book into the 25%-33% of the economy cabin which is designated as ‘preferred’ seating
- Economy Delight tickets continue to let you select a seat from the block with additional leg room
‘Preferred’ seats are defined as:
- Seats near the front of the cabin
- Exit row seats
- Duo seats (two seats with no middle seat)
If you’re happy to take your chances with whatever seats are left at check-in then Economy Light may work for you. However, remember that you are missing out on additional Virgin Points and you have a ticket type that cannot be upgraded. Economy Classic CAN be upgraded with points to either Premium or Upper Class.
Why Virgin’s Economy Delight is the real sweet spot
I have been digging into routes and prices. My view is that it is often a no-brainer to book Economy Delight, especially on longer routes.
A lot of people who don’t read HfP won’t work this out, but let me explain my thinking.
In general Economy Delight is priced at £100 return above Economy Classic and £200 return above Economy Light.
Let’s look at the Virgin Points received. I am assuming that you are savvy enough to get at least 1p of value per Virgin Point. This isn’t difficult as long as you are redeeming for Premium or Upper / Business class flights.
Here’s an example. San Francisco is 10,734 miles return.
This means you would earn roughly:
- 2,600 Virgin Points for an Economy Light return
- 5,200 Virgin Points for an Economy Classic return (+ 2,600, so £26-worth)
- 15,600 Virgin Points for an Economy Delight return (+ 13,000, so £130-worth)
To be clear, on a 12-hour Virgin Atlantic flight to San Francisco the additional cost of Economy Delight over Economy Classic is entirely offset by the additional Virgin Points you earn if you think you can redeem for 1p per point.
This assigns no value to:
- the extra 3 inches of leg-room
- priority check-in
- priority boarding
- the extra tier points
Compared to Economy Light, you are also getting:
- free seat selection (otherwise £80 return)
- a free suitcase (otherwise £100 return)
- the ability to upgrade with points to Upper Class or Premium if available
Even if you are not a long-term collector of Virgin Points, remember that there are now loads of small redemptions in the Virgin Red app which will get you around 0.5p per point.
Fly to San Francisco in Economy Delight and you would earn roughly 15,600 points which would get you £78 of Virgin Red goodies. Economy Light would only earn 2,600 points (£13 of Virgin Red goodies) whilst Economy Classic would only earn 5,200 points (£26 of Virgin Red goodies). The points offset two thirds of the cost of the upgrade from Economy Classic to Economy Delight – and this assumes you redeem for the worst possible Virgin Points redemptions, ie bits and pieces from the Virgin Red app.
Even if you have zero interest in earning 150% base miles from Economy Delight, I still think it makes sense. On the longer routes, you are paying £100 extra return over Economy Classic to get an extra chunk of leg-room for 24 hours of flying time. That is £4 per hour. If you don’t value your well-being at an extra £4 per hour ….
If you believe you can get 1p per Virgin Point, the Economy Delight upgrade is effectively free in most cases due to the extra points you earn.
All of the maths above is based around the longer Virgin Atlantic routes.
The benefit of Economy Delight is less clear cut on a shorter flight such as New York, because the extra cost is still roughly £100 return over Economy Classic but the flying time is shorter and the bonus Virgin Points are fewer.
I would still be giving Economy Delight consideration though, because £100 return for the additional legroom plus some extra points plus priority boarding etc is never going to be a bad deal.
On the longer Virgin Atlantic routes, I see no real justification – if you can get full value from the extra Virgin Points these tickets earn – for not paying the extra for Economy Delight over Economy Classic.
You can read about the different Economy Classes on the Virgin Atlantic website here.